Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Suffer Ye the Little Children

Photo: txd, Flickr Creative Commons

My son said something a little surprising the other day. As he was mixing colors of Play Doh into a purplish gray mass, he looked up at my wife and me and said "I don't like Jesus. I don't need him. I don't need Jesus." He's at an age where he tends to reiterate whatever statement he makes, so this became almost a short chant. Now, I came out on this blog a while back about my personal lack of faith, but that's exactly what it is for me: personal. I don't discuss this issue out loud. My wife doesn't nag me about not going to church or about not believing. She's actually about as far from being a harpy as one can reasonably be. Basically, I'm saying I really don't think little E got this idea from me. In fact, we often send him off to church with my parents who take him to both kinds of religion: Southern Baptist and Primitive Baptist.

Of course, I've long since suspected that my two-and-a-half-year-old's grasp on Christian theology was a bit flimsy. Despite staying every work day with the wife of a Baptist pastor, he's never seemed to really grasp the importance of the issue. He's sung a prayer before meals for a long while now, something his babysitter taught him. The only problem was that the name the kids all call her sounds very similar to God. Basically, I think for at least six months of his life, little E prayed to his babysitter before most meals. He also came home one day with a balloon and I asked him where he got it. His reply, "Balloon is for God. For Jesus." That was kind of the extent of theology for him, I think.

Of course my wife and I are fairly secular, even though my wife is a believer and still very much an Orthodox Christian. We don't say a prayer before meals when we eat on our own. The nearest church in my wife's denomination is hours away from our home so we rarely go to church with her, and I try to avoid going to my childhood church. I haven't been in years.

The funny thing about all of this is that I tend to be an apologist for religion. Anytime I'm involved in a debate about religion, I tend to be on the side protecting the church, partly because I think most atheists are just assholes and many agnostics are holier-than-thou types without a church to back them up. I acknowledge many of the flaws in organized religion. In fact, I left the church originally because of many of those flaws. I just recognize that the issue isn't just black and white and being flawed doesn't make something wrong or evil.

I'm actually okay regardless of whether my son grows up to believe or not. I just don't want to be the main influence on his decision, although I know the fact that I set an example of not taking church attendance seriously will influence him no matter how hard I want him to make that decision on his own. Of course, I'll raise him with most of the same values, the good ones at least. My wife and I are close and we're both good people. We'll be setting good examples in most areas of morality and ethics that matter.

Still, none of that makes a little kid with blonde curls, bright blue eyes, and an angelic smile chanting "I don't need Jesus" any less creepy. Of course the next day he was singing church songs with his grandmother. Two-year-olds just like saying they don't like things. They enjoy being contrary. It gives them some sense of control during a stage of their life when they're pretty much completely out of control. He says he doesn't like me all the time. Kids that age say all kinds of crap they don't really mean.

I hope.


courtney said...

Good post. I agree that bringing up your kid with a strong sense of family and goodwill to others is largely the same as bringing him up "Christian," and if I had a kid I would raise him/her the same way. (I put Christian in quotation marks there because there are plenty of people who raise their kids in the name of Christianity but are still assholes.)

I find it hilarious that E was praying to his babysitter. I'm not sure how I would feel about a babysitter giving my kid religious lessons, though.

Jacob said...

I don't think she's really giving him religious lessons. The prayer thing is pretty standard here and in no way offensive to me and this lady is NOT what you'd expect of a Baptist preacher's wife. The balloon thing came because he got the balloon at her husbands church where she takes them to play on the playground on a regular basis.

Julie said...

I agree that raising your child with good values is just as good (if not better) than raising your child with religion but at the same time, I wonder who should be the biggest influence on his religion if not you or the wife?

Sid said...

What I'd like to know is if E overheard this chant from someone. Anyway for me it's pretty simple you don't have to pray each day to prove that you're a good person. Just treat anyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Jacob said...

No, Sid. I'm pretty sure he was just being a dick. He told his grandmother that she couldn't hug him because she was bad repeatedly when we were packing up the car to leave after Thanksgiving. Then he gave her a big hug when we actually walked out the door. Kids this age are just contrarians.

Chris said...

Heh, it does come off as a little creepy, regardless your personal beliefs. At least he didn't follow it up with, "I prefer Satan instead."

A Free Man said...

My Mom, on the last day of her visit, was asking me if we intended to raise the boys as Christians. I was slightly flummoxed as that was never something that important in our family. The funny thing is that I've thought about taking them to some kind of church when they get old enough to make up their minds about these sort of things. That means I'm going to have to find a church that doesn't totally creep me out. Fortunately we're no longer living in the southeastern United States, so that may be a bit easier.

Have I mentioned lately that Tech is laughable?

Jacob said...

Which team is having to fire assistant coaches to satiate the fan base?

Crappy teams get lucky sometimes and beat good teams. They just don't end up with 10-win seasons.

Mickey said...

I'm with Julie. Wouldn't you rather have a little more say in your son's worldview than some church?

I'd like to see what people come up with when not exposed to any prepackaged notions at all.